A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Carolina shut out by Blues

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes were in the show-me state hoping to pick up two points in an out-of-conference game against the Blues. They ran into a hot goaltender in Emmanuel Legace and they left with nothing.
Fortunately for the Canes, Florida got shut out by the red-hot Penguins, so they didn't lose any of their slim lead.
Right now, the Thrashers are ahead of the Sabres. If it ends like that, it isn't good news for the Canes, who are just five points ahead in the SE. After today, the Thrashers will have one game in hand and the Kitties will have two. Meanwhile, the Capitals are lurking in the shadows. They're sitting at 39 points, just seven back of the Canes. They also have two games in hand.

It's becoming clear, even at this relatively early stage, that there will be no wildcard playoff berths from the SE division. If the playoffs started today, the entire Atlantic Division would go, the top two from the Northeast would go, and the Canes would go.

As for Saturday's game, I was a little surprised that Michael Leighton got the start on back-to-back nights, but he played really well and proved that it was a good call to start him.

Buffalonian and Ivy League product Lee Stempniak scored at 12:49 of the first. It would prove to be the game-winning goal. Former Sabre Jay McKee worked behind the Carolina net, then found Stempniak on the doorstep. McKee made a beautiful pass, and Stempniak just tipped it in. It wasn't the prettiest goal in the world, but McKee worked hard to make it happen. Ryan Johnson got the secondary assist.

Carolina had ample scoring chances, but the former Red Wing answered the call every time. On the other end, Leighton wasn't very busy. He only saw 19 shots for the entire game.

What it came down to was that Legace was their best player. He needed to be. In a post-game interview with the FSN South crew, he kept emphasizing that the Blues are short on talent and that they need to work extra hard. They did, and he does. As a team, they blocked 14 shots, and they won 56% of the faceoffs against a Carolina team that normally dominates that category.

Legace shut out the Red Wings on New Year's Eve. Then, on Wednesday, he had one period of perfect relief against the Oilers. Going back to December 28, he has gone 143 minutes and change without giving up a goal. I'd say he should be in the running for the NHL Player of the Week.

The "official" three stars went to Johnson (third), McKee (second) and Legace (first). Legace is a no-brainer. I'm not sure that I agree with the rest. McKee's play to set up Stempniak was awesome, but I just don't see why Johnson is named. While Leighton deserves some mention, and Chad LaRose had a great night, I don't think any of the Canes are worthy of three stars.
Barrett Jackman, in his first game back from a concussion, had a fantastic game for the Blues. He had six hits and three blocked shots. He definitely deserves mention. In the low scoring game, Stempniak has to be given the nod, too. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Lee Stempniak, STL --- GWG
SECOND STAR Barret Jackman, STL --- 6 hits, 3 blocked shots
FIRST STAR Manny Legace, STL --- 27 saves, shutout win

After the game, Legace gave an interview for FSN South, and it was one of the better ones I've seen all season. He seemed really genuine about everything, was very grateful and friendly. He came off like a really cool guy. There was, though, one odd moment when he and Tripp Tracy (who are apparently friends in real life) were in conversation and Tripp said "I hope you'll give me a few strokes." I hope he meant that they're golfing together.

The Canes are off until Tuesday, when they'll be in Boston. There's a possibility that Andrew Ladd and Nic Wallin will be back.

Speaking of Andrew Ladd, it seems that Flyers bad boy Steve Downie is at it again. Just a few games after his suspension ended, he has committed another transgression. This time, he went all Sean Avery on the Leafs' Jason Blake. While the linesmen were restraining Blake, Downie punched him in the eye. We'll see what happens. Avery was not suspended despite the fact that there's a provision for an automatic one game suspension. The league is investigating, and I don't think they'll go lightly on Downie. They have been told that they're being watched. We'll see how serious Colin Campbell is about what he said last time.

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